Colombia travel blog by Mark Berman -
I have travelled the road between Pasto and Popayan 3 times now, each year between 2010 and 2012, twice up, once down, it is my least favorite
stretch of road in Colombia.
The first time I travelled to Popayan was on an overnight bus from Pasto in the south, it took less than 5hrs because
of the way the bus driver drove - overtaking at any opportunity. The journey was not that much fun, the roads have many curves so it was like some
kind of rally race. I was not feeling well by the time we got close to Popayan and needed to hold a plastic bag near my mouth incase I brought up
my stomach. I did get a little sleep at one point while I clutched tightly to my personal backpack full of my important belongings - laptop computer,
camera, money and passport etc. I was fast asleep in the back seat when I got a tap on the shoulder by a policeman. I woke to find the whole bus was
empty except for me. It was a checkpoint, all other passengers were out on the roadside while the police were checking under seats, in the back of
seats, in the toilet, anywhere where contraband could be hidden. He immediately checked under the seat I was sitting on. I got off the bus and joined
the other passengers out on the road in the middle of nowhere until the police had finished their inspection of the buses interior and luggage
compartments. After arriving at the bus terminal in Popayan I needed to sit down for a while and recover and have a think about where I would stay.
The 2nd time I just passed through Popayan traveling south to Pasto during the day. I did bring up my stomach this time and had to stop halfway in a
place called Mojarras for the night and rest and continue on the next day.
The 3rd time I visited Popayan in 2012 the bus took 8hrs 30mins from Pasto,
we were stopped by police in the middle of the night for 90mins at one point because bandits were robbing the buses ahead of us. After it was safe to
continue, we did so.
Eat a Big Meal!
All I can say about this journey is to make sure you have a big meal before you leave. It's safer to do it during the day, but still reasonably safe to do it at night. Good luck!